The first remains of an ancient Egyptian mummified pregnant woman were identified and discovered in Thebes, which are more than 2,000 years old.
The body was 28 weeks after her pregnancy when she died.
Experts from the Polish Academy of Sciences working as part of the Warsaw Mummy Project worked to learn more about the woman, who was believed to be over 20 years old.
Using a combination of CT scans and X-rays, the team discovered the remains of a fetus, around 26 to 30 weeks old, in the woman – the first time a pregnant mummy was discovered.
The body of the woman, who died 2,000 years ago, had been carefully wrapped in cloth and left with a copious set of amulets to guide her to the afterlife, according to the authors, who write in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
The team cannot say exactly why the fetus was left behind in the woman and not separately mummified, but it may be that it was too young to have a name necessary for travel to its mother’s afterlife.
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The abdominal area of the mummy is shown through a series of scans, with the fetus almost visible as a light-colored mass
The head and the CT scan the mummy. The first remains of an ancient Egyptian mummified pregnant woman were discovered in Thebes. They date from more than 2,000 years. The body was 28 weeks after her pregnancy when she died
WHAT IS EGYPT’S VALLEY OF KINGS?
The Valley of the Kings in Upper Egypt is one of the main tourist attractions in the country and the famous burial place of many deceased pharaohs.
It is located near the ancient city of Luxor on the banks of the Nile in Eastern Egypt – 500 km from the Giza Pyramids near Cairo.
The majority of the pharaohs of the 18th to 20th dynasties, who lived from 1550 to 1069 BC. Ruled, rested in the tombs cut in the local rock.
The royal tombs are adorned with scenes from Egyptian mythology and give clues to the beliefs and burial rituals of that time.
Almost all of the tombs were opened and looted centuries ago, but the sites still give an idea of the opulence and power of the pharaohs.
The most famous pharaoh in this place is Tutankhamun, whose tomb was discovered in 1922.
Original decorations of sacred images have been preserved in the grave to this day, including those from the Book of Gates or the Book of Caves.
These are the most important funeral texts on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Wojciech Ejsmond said this was the “first discovery of a pregnant embalmed body” adding, “There is no other such well-preserved ancient body of a pregnant woman.”
The body was wrapped in high quality fabrics and laid to rest with a series of amulets depicting the four sons of Horus. The team suspects that it was very important in Thebes.
According to the authors of the study, the mummy was found in royal tombs in Thebes, Upper Egypt, which came from the elite of the Theban community.
It was discovered in the 19th century and dates back to the first century BC when Cleopatra was queen and the city of Thebes was full of activity.
The woman was brought to Warsaw, Poland in 1826 at the time of some of the most important discoveries from the Egyptian Valley of the Kings and is currently on display in the National Museum in Warsaw.
A closer examination in 2021, using modern imaging techniques, showed that the woman died between the ages of 20 and 30 along with the fetus by the age of 30 weeks of gestation.
“This mummy opens up new avenues for ancient pregnancy studies that can be compared and linked to current cases,” the study authors wrote.
“In addition, this specimen sheds light on an unexplored aspect of ancient Egyptian burial customs and interpretations of pregnancy in the context of ancient Egyptian religion.”
“For Egyptologists, this is a fascinating discovery as we know little about perinatal health and childhood in ancient Egypt,” added Dr. Ejsmond added.
“For example, doctors can examine the intestinal contents of the fetus to obtain information about the development of the immune system in ancient times.”
The fetus was located in the lower part of the lower pelvis and partly in the lower part of the larger pelvis, and was mummified along with its mother. However, it has not been removed from its original location.
It was left intact in the womb. His head circumference was 9.8 inches, which the team used to determine that he was between the ages of 26 and 30 weeks.
“Due to the poor state of the child’s skeleton with shrinking bones caused by dehydration and fractures, it was impossible to measure other bones,” the team wrote.
CT images of the infant were obscured by tissue from the uterus around them, meaning they couldn’t get any more detailed analysis beyond measuring the head.
Unlike the heart, lungs, liver and intestines, it was not removed from the uterus with the stomach.
7. X-ray of the head and teeth of the mummy. Using a combination of CT scans and X-rays, the team discovered the remains of a fetus, around 26 to 30 weeks old, in the woman – the first time a pregnant mummy was discovered
The team examined the mummy, coffin and shell that were given to the Warsaw National Museum for exhibition and have been in Poland since the 18th century
Abdominal area of the mummy with amulets depicting the four sons of Horus above the navel area
The study’s authors could not say why the fetus was not extracted and mummified on its own, as has been shown in other stillborn infant cases.
“It might have been assumed that it was still an integral part of its mother’s body since it was not yet born,” they said.
No name was given to the fetus, and according to ancient Egyptian belief, a name was an important part of a person. Hence, his afterlife could only have happened if he had gone to the underworld as part of his mother.
Maternal mortality is still high today. According to the World Health Organization, 295,000 women died in 2017 during and after pregnancy and childbirth – in ancient times it was much higher.
Another scan shows the abdominal area of the mummy, in which the conical disc and the textiles in the navel area are visible
However, the approximations of the severity of the problem are often educated guesswork, according to the study’s authors. Until this discovery, the sources of information in ancient Egypt were written records.
Pregnant women’s burials are rarely identified and, until the current discovery, there was no material to conduct first-hand research into childbirth complications and test specimens for the use of ancient medical treatments.
‘This mummy opens up a new way of studying pregnancy in ancient times, the development of fetuses, and the taphonomic processes of the fetus and uterus.
‘The fact that only non-invasive research has been done on this mummy to date means that it is intact and may be the subject of future multidisciplinary research.
These are the earliest drawings of the mummy cover from the 19th century, when the mummy was first brought to Poland
“For example, an analysis of the intestinal contents of the fetus can be compared with recent research on bacterial colonization to gather information about the development of the immunological system,” the team wrote.
This discovery is also important for studying ancient interpretations of pregnancy in the context of funeral beliefs. It is difficult, but also very interesting, to find out what it means to leave the fetus in the womb and to mummify both of them together.
More work is needed to better understand how the woman was mummified with the fetus, according to the team, which cannot confirm who she is or even that she was actually found in the royal tombs.
The results were published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
Advice to Die! The ancient Egyptian embalming instructions for a 3,500-year-old medical papyrus show the face of the dead being wrapped in bandages soaked with ointment to reduce swelling
The ancient Egyptians are known for the art of mummification, in which the dead were wrapped in bandages to protect their bodies for the afterlife. A new discovery reveals more tails of the ritual.
A 3,500 year old medical papyrus was translated by the University of Copenhagen, which outlines instructions for properly covering the deceased’s face.
The manuscript, called the Louvre-Carlsberg Papyrus, reads like a reminder and suggests that the reader use it to remind them of various steps and processes during embalming.
It shows a list of ingredients to create a remedy consisting of plant-based aromatic substances and binders that are boiled into a liquid that the embalmers use to coat a piece of red linen.
The Egyptologist Sofie Schiødt explained: The bed linen acts like a protective cocoon made of fragrant and antibacterial substances on the face and the process is repeated every four days. ‘
Although the papyrus has only small details, it is the first time the process has been identified in history.